The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Category: Wade Fishing

Outgunned With the Ghost of Fly Fishing Future

IMG_1025

As far as days go, you couldn’t ask for much prettier. The clear blue Utah skies let the sun shine uninterrupted over the river valley, and the occasional breeze kept the temperature in the comfortable low 70’s. Nearby, the soothing sounds of a softly flowing river weaved their way through the trees at the water’s edge, and each gust of wind made the grassy fields sway in waves, sending clouds of freshly hatched Caddis flies airborne. In an adjacent field, a herd of Alpaca grazed silently. Their methodical feeding halted only occasionally as they raised their heads to see where the one unnatural sound was coming from. Somewhere in the field ahead of the herd, violent coughing and hacking, with an intermittent gurgle was erupting from the grass.

IMG_1066

MY violent coughing an hacking.

One of the billions of Caddis flies had managed to find his way straight into my lungs while I was walking across the field. Dressed in full saltwater fishing apparel (I own nothing else), I crawled around in the grass in a futile effort to hack up my lungs. Tears began to stream down my face as I struggled to breathe and eventually an Alpaca came near the fence to see what all the commotion was about. He silently chewed his cud and with an unblinking stare, he watched me struggle on the ground for a few minutes.

A fitting end, I suppose. Who would have ever seen this one coming? Slain by a rogue Caddis in the Utah desert, with no one to witness it except an emotionless cousin of the camel from the Motherland (my mother is actually from Peru). It’s a death none of my friends could have predicted, although…Now that I really think about it…I doubt any of them would have been -that- surprised by the event.

But as you may have guessed since you’re reading this, I eventually managed to dislodge the foul beast from my windpipe, wiped the tears from my face, and thanked my Alpaca friend for the help. I then grabbed my fly rod and set off to do what I’d intended to do all along: Fly fish for Brown trout.

Having lost my shoes in a fly fishing success story a few weeks prior, I was still running around barefoot. And by running, I mean carefully and deliberately taking each step, only cursing wildly every once in a while when my foot found a thorn. The river I was fishing -looked- fishy, but at this point of my trip I still had no idea what I was doing. None. My only real hope was to just get out there and try it. So I cruised the bank until I saw a decent looking hole, and walked down to begin casting from a rock. Almost immediately I noticed fish rising. BIG fish. Every once in a while it seriously sounded like someone dropped a bowling ball into the water when I fish hit something on the surface. Now remember, I’d spent the past 4 weeks fly fishing Montana in a very long trout lesson that resulted in only a handful of fish. So imagine my surprise when I big brown took my dry fly on the 3rd cast.

The fight was on and I immediately realized something: I was outgunned.

My 3 weight fly rod simply didn’t have enough *umph* to get these fish out of the current. The fight honestly took over 5 minutes before I managed to get the fish to the bank. And it was then that I realized I was missing a vital piece of equipment. No, not my shoes…ok…Yes my shoes…But something even more important: A landing net. I splashed around barefoot in shin deep water for what felt like an eternity before FINALLY grabbing hold of the fish. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was holding.

IMG_1031

My first Brown! I’d fished so long and hard for trout the past few weeks that this just seemed…Easy. Maybe it was just a combination of things. Higher water levels. Different fish. Different river. Different hatch. Shoot, even I can admit I’d learned what to look for over time. Maybe I was actually getting the whole “trout” thing down pat? Regardless, I soon revived the fish, and started fishing again. With the same result. Just a few casts later I was hooked up. To an even bigger one.

IMG_1082

Given that I barely landed the last fish, I pretty much had no chance with this one. He bulldogged his way into the current, and then just sat there. Had it not been for him slowly moving further up current, I would have thought I’d hooked bottom. Sadly, my hook eventually pulled, and he swam off. But was it really this easy? It was only 3 in the afternoon. Was this about to keep up the rest of the evening? Excitedly, I stripped out some more line, and executed a flawless cast about 8 feet up a tree on the far bank and broke my fly off.

Fantastic…I thought to myself as I began to dig through my fly box for a clone of my lost fly. And it was then that I realized…That was the only one of it’s kind that I owned. Nothing else I had was even -remotely- similar to it. I tried everything. Nymphs, hoppers, you name it. Nothing was working like my long lost fly.

So I sat there on a rock and drank some water. All the while contemplating what I should do. Busily watching fish feed in front of me, I was startled by the sound of something crashing through the bushes behind me. Suddenly a man came staggering out of the bushes. An old man. A REALLY old man. Dressed in waders and a wide brimmed hat, he was toting around a 6 weight fly rod and had the overall look of an old fly fisherman. The creases around his eyes and forehead showed the signs of a man who’d probably seen it all, and slightly crazy from it. Not from life in general, but from fly fishing too damn much. It’s estimated that every three hours spent fly fishing is frustrating enough to take a week off of your life expectancy. Given the man’s limp he was sporting, as well as his overall appearance, I would have put him somewhere between 80-127 years old. But he crashed out of the bushes as gave me a big smile as he approached.

I was surprised to see someone there since I hadn’t seen a soul since I arrived, but we began to chat and he told me that he’d been fishing just about all day and hadn’t had the first ounce of success. I told him about my varied luck and he commented about how crazy I was for swinging just a three weight on this particular river, but congratulated me on actually landing a fish with the thing. He gave me the usual old man banter about better rivers elsewhere and the whole “it’s not what it used to be” schpeal, and then said he was  giving up for the day because he was sore. Why was he sore? This ancient guy had undergone double knee replacements, double HIP replacements, and a shoulder replacement. And here I was complaining about sore bare feet and a throbbing knee from an ACL tear in highschool.

Before he left, he asked me what I’d been using and I answered as honestly as I could.

“Just this little…brown dry fly thing…”

“Oh, like this one?”, he responded, holding up his rod to show me the fly. “I’ve been throwing this all day and haven’t caught a thing yet”

That was it! That’s the same fly I’d been using!

“That’s actually the one!” I told him.

“Well here…maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I did”, he finished, and snipped the fly off to give to me.

I thanked him profusely and he said he needed to get going. I told him bye and he wished me good luck before disappearing back into the bushes. Quickly I tied on the new fly and walked up to a fence that overlooked the field with the Alpacas in order to get further down the river. This field was the only point of access to this river, so I expected to see the man walking back to his truck. But it was then that I realized something…There were no other cars when I parked. I was alone out there. To add to the mystery? The man was gone. Like, GONE, gone. As easily as he’d appeared, he’d disappeared.

Was he even real? It was like the Ghost of Fly Fishing Future. If I kept fly fishing like this, I was assuredly going to end up just like him. Was that what I have to look forward to?

Regardless…The fly was very real. And I proceeded to slay the fish with it.

IMG_1036

Still outgunned, I only managed to land two other fish, and lost another 5. Oh, and of the ones I landed? Thanks to not having a net, I managed to finally bare hand a fish before he flopped from my grip, and snapped the line…Money Fly in tow. Just as easily as that fly had entered my world, it was gone. And as far as I was concerned, my day was over.

I learned a lot from my time spent out west. As a die hard saltwater guy, I’d always kinda poo-poo’d coldwater trout fishing. It was something that never really interested me because it was something I knew -nothing- about. Having lived and breathed it for over a month, I can say that it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s extremely technical and challenging. No two rivers are the same, nor are any two days. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. And it’s details like this that keep the game ever changing and keep the angler on his toes. Of course I love paddling out a giant bloody piece of bait for shark fishing here in Florida, but western trout fishing has managed to find its way into my heart, and I’m sure I’ll be back sooner or later to get that fix. Maybe next time I’ll get to run into the Ghost of Flyfishing Future again and thank him, and maybe next time I won’t be outgunned in the desert.

 

Full Blown Fishing Bums

When you think of a fisherman, what pops into your mind? Is it Ol’ Bill Dance, falling backwards off his boat? Maybe it’s that dad with his sons on their way to the lake on an early Saturday morning, or even that part-time guide who owns the fly shop down the street?

Or maybe…Just maybe…It’s one of these guys. One of MY guys…

IMG_0874

The fishing bum.

We’re an odd breed of fisherman. We aren’t professionals. We’ll never be the ones to win tournaments or start making a living off the fish we catch. We rarely land the biggest fish of the day and getting skunked is certainly not unheard of.

Our gear isn’t the best. Sure we’ll have a few high end rods and reels, but our matching Simm’s outfit is far from complete. If it’s warm enough and we can get away with it, going barefoot is just part of the attire. Few of us own boats, and those that do certainly don’t own the nicest, or newest, or even most seaworthy of them all.

Fishbum

We’re a step beyond the avid fisherman. Sure the weekend warrior gets out there each Saturday and Sunday, but we won’t hesitate to go fish at 11, or even midnight, regardless if we’ve work the next day or not.

Speaking of work, we’re (for the most part) perpetually broke. Hence the term bum. We work random jobs to feed our obsession. Contrary to popular belief, most of us are educated. A bachelor’s degree is almost a prerequisite before one goes full fishing bum. But a career? Those are few and far between. Restaurant jobs, Exotic reptile farms, Lawn and Garden stores. You name it, we’ve, at some point, done it.

Fishbum2

The obsession runs deep. It’s absolutely consuming. Dining room tables aren’t used for eating. They’re for fly tying and all the materials that comes with it. Freezers don’t have Hot Pockets or frozen ground beef. They’re full of dead Cigs and Chum. Closets refuse to give up a single article of clothing until you’ve cleared at least two rods out of the way. Your work vehicle has a breakdown rod and reel for lunch time (who needs to eat?), and damn near every article of clothing you own has a little fish blood on it. You’ve spent more time looking at maps and weather forecasts than all the cartographers and weathermen in the world combined, and losing a big one keeps you up at night for weeks.

We’ve an intense passion for beer. Call us…Enthusiasts, if you will. Beer makes the stories better, the spots fishier, and the fish bigger. Plus, there are few things better for a fisherman after either a successful day, or a skunking, than a tall cold one. Seriously, if you don’t enjoy a good beer, you’re to be untrusted and your fish tales are unbelievable.

IMG_0880

There’s no such thing as “unreachable” waters. So what if it’s hard to get to? That just makes for bigger fish. There’s not a single fish bum out there who hasn’t hopped a fence, waded through waist deep mud, or bush wacked their way to a fishy spot at one point or another. No vehicle? Not a huge issue. I’m personally guilty of stuffing my fly rod into a backpack and peddling a bicycle across town in the rain -just- to get to a fishing hole. If there’s a will, there’s a way. And laziness is hard to come by with a fish bum. Well…while fishing, of course. Otherwise yeah…we’re total bums.

We aren’t purists. We’d never look down on someone for using “spin to win”, or something along those lines. Hell, half the reason we use fly rods is because it makes the story better at the end of the day and makes an already difficult task more difficult. Sure I love to fly fish, but I’ll never hesitate to throw on the snorkel and mask and go spearfish something. An obsession is an obsession. And we’ll do just about anything to get our fix and our fish.

———————–

A bolt of lighting ripped across the dark gray sky amidst the alpine riddled mountains, and the inevitable report of thunder sent small rocks skittering down the slopes and into the clear waters of a swiftly flowing creek below.

“Great”, I said sarcastically as I took a sip of beer and looked out across the creek as the rocks began to splash. It’d been a crappy day, and I was crouched underneath a small fir to try and avoid the rain…and lightning. With a heavy sigh, I pointed my 3-weight fly rod out at the creek. “Shall we? We’re here already”.

Jeb and Trent, the guys I was with, agreed and despite the cold, light rain and distant lightning, we proceeded to try and make the best of the situation. Water levels were low here in Western Montana, and this creek was no exception. Just a few fishable holes were available to us, and it made for an aggravating time. As the only decent fishing around, these holes got hit by everyone. Every day. And the fish in these holes had seen it all. Despite all of this, Jeb managed to luck out and land a nice Cutthroat.

IMG_0899

Eventually, however, I got frustrated and left the others to the hole. I wanted to find something different. Explore some new water. Maybe, if I was lucky, I could find a new hole to fish.

So down the creek I walked, slipping occasionally as my Crocs were quite possibly the worst footwear choice for Montana. Soon I was forced to cross the creek and waded across the mid-thigh high, swiftly moving water to a nice rock bank on the far side. Up ahead, I spotted out a blown down tree that was situated near the center of the creek.

Well…It certainly -looks- fishy…

A combination of high brush along the bankside as well as the direction of the current meant that I had to stand in the water to cast, but the big tree did have a good looking hole on the down current side. So I found a suitable rock to place my IPA and proceeded to cast into the hole.

I should note that at this point I had still yet to catch a decent trout in Montana. Or ever, for that matter. All of my fish so far had been so small that I back cast them into the bushes behind me by mistake. I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

IMG_0904

So I threw a big fat grasshopper patterend fly that my dad had tied years ago just to see what happened. The fly landed gently at the base of the log, and the swift current soon pulled it into a small eddy on its way down the creek. Suddenly, the water erupted around my fly.

No way…a fish?!

I tried to set the hook to no avail. In my excitement, my fly was immediately back-cast into the bushes behind me, and I was forced to plow my way through them in order to retrieve my fly. After what seemed like an eternity, I got my fly back, and gave the hole another cast.

This time it was even quicker. The fish exploded on the fly, and unlike last time, I set the hook on the fish.

I felt that addictive pull, I knew the fish was on, it pulled out of the hole, into the current, and that was it….

The hook fell out.

The whole thing lasted less than two seconds, but it was enough to get me overly excited. I certainly never thought that a little creek trout would give me the shakes, but this had been a three week long quest at this point, and all I wanted was to land a decent fish. I immediately made another cast and…

Nothing.

Another. And yet again, nothing. I cast for another hour before finally switching flies and continuing. But still. Nothing. I’d missed him.

I walked back to Jeb and Trent completely defeated and totally distraught. What was I doing wrong? How was everyone else catching fish and not me? Was it my gear? Was it my honed offshore/saltwater hookset method? Was I just freakin’ unlucky?

I didn’t know, but here’s where the true fish bum in me shined through. I became obsessed. I didn’t sleep. Couldn’t…actually. All I could do was think about that fish under the log, what I’d done wrong, and what I needed to do to land it. Come hell or high water, I was getting back to that creek, and I was going to land that fish. I just needed a way to get back there. A spot 45 minutes from town when you have no car is technically impossible to get to. Unless, of course, you’re a fish bum.

———————-

So for a full week I stewed. I told buddies and strangers at the bars about the fish and about what happened, but was careful to never give away exact locations. And it wasn’t until the following week that a chance to redeem myself finally emerged.

I was happily sitting on the couch with my friend Alaina, watching the Big Lebowski, and enjoying a beer when the topic of conversation turned to fishing. I described my lost fish to her and explained how badly I wanted to redeem myself.

“Game to give it a try this evening?” I asked, praying she’d agree.

Without hesitation she responded. “Yeah…Absolutely”

I’ve always driven either a truck or a Jeep. So it honestly felt a little weird to begin loading fishing gear into a bright blue, late 90’s Honda Civic hatchback, but at that point I didn’t care. I was about to get another chance at this fish, and being a true fish bum, I literally bummed a ride out there.

After winding our way down a dusty, gravel mountain road, Alaina and I arrived at the spot. I cracked a beer and weaved my way down the poorly traveled trail through the thicket to the water’s edge. Unfortunately, upon walking out onto the edge of the creek, we discovered two other fly fishermen had beaten us to the the first hole. But to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less. I had a hot date with that log farther down the creek. So we politely walked past the two men, weaved our way down the bank, crossed the swift creek, and made it to the tree.

Once there, Alaina gave me first dibs. Using the same grasshopper fly, I cast below the log and…

Nothing….

I tried again. And still again, nothing. I cast for about a half hour before finally giving my friend a turn. She too was using a grasshopper fly, but a slightly different pattern, and part of me dreaded the idea that she might catch the fish I was after.

IMG_0994

Eventually, however, she broke her tippet off on the log and that meant I had another chance at the hole. By this point, the sun had begun to dip below the nearby mountainside, casting us in its shadow, and I’d made the decision to switch up flies. Obviously the hoppers weren’t working, so I threw on a sinking nymph and began casting.

It should probably be noted that as a born and raised saltwater fly fisherman, I’ve never been in the situation where a strike indicator/Bobber/Thing-a-ma-bobber is necessary. So I’m not sure if it was pure Floridian fisherman speaking, or lazy fish bum, or beer, or what, but I opted to just tie the nymph on with no indicator and see what happened.

By this point I’d caught onto the whole “current’ thing. Your fly line pulls at the fly and makes it look absurd to a trout. So I made a cast underneath the log, held my fly line out of the water, and guided it carefully down current.

IMG_1007

I’ll be the first to admit; It was subtle. I barely saw the line twitch. But twitch it did, and with the grace of a newborn giraffe, I set the hook into a fish, and the fight was on.

At first I thought I’d hooked another little guy like I’d done countless times beforehand. But soon it began pulling out line on my 3-weight and got caught in the current. Immediately I knew I was outgunned. 4X tippet and a fish in the current meant I was just a hiccup away from losing the fish, so I did the next reasonable thing; I started running. Down current I chased the fish, trying the whole time to reel in at least a few inches of fly line at a time. Instantly I felt the Croc on my right foot slip off.

No time…Can’t…Retrieve…Shoe…

I passionately wish I could describe how painful it is to run along slippery river rocks barefoot, but I haven’t the words in me to give it justice. It’s like someone hitting the sole of your foot with a wet baseball bat. But I honestly didn’t care. I soon realized that this was the fish. This was the one that had haunted my dreams for the past week. My only goal was to land this fish.

With no net and only one shoe on, the landing was sketchy to say the least. But by the end of it all, I looked back to discover I’d run about 80 yards down current to land this fish. I’m usually slow to excite, but as a fish bum, this did it for me. It’s a miracle I held the fish still for the picture, and Alaina just laughed at how hard from excitement I was shaking after finally having landed my first…Real…Montana fish.

IMG_1005IMG_1009

Obviously not the biggest in the world, but this fish made my entire trip. I’d never been more thankful to have put forth the effort and time into chasing a fish before. I just hope my Croc is out there somewhere, floating around with my other lost Crocs, waiting for the day that my adventures lead to their colony. Maybe somewhere near Fiji. Or New Zealand. Who knows? Only time will tell.

Speckled Trout Fishing

I made it! Hooray! I survived the semester from hell and made it back to Pensacola Saturday afternoon. As usual, the weather is awful and the wind refuses to lay down. Sunday I just wanted to relax, and Monday was too windy. By today, however, I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to face the gale and go fishing.

Not wishing to take the kayak out for a sailing trip, I opted to wade fish some grass flats near Gulf Breeze. Sunrise was at 6:00am so I set my alarm for 4:45. I was rather displeased when I woke up at 5:20 to find that my alarm hadn’t gone off. I quickly threw on some clothes, grabbed my gear (always glad when you pack the night before) and headed out.

Luckily, the horrible weather brought in some clouds and even though sunrise was supposed to be at 6:00, it was still pretty dark when I arrived at the grass flats. I waded out into the sound and started casting my topwater lure in all directions. The wind was already blowing at least 15 mph out of the southwest and the sound was beginning to get a chop to it. I worked my way east and at least got to see a good looking sunrise.

Shortly after snapping some pictures, I had my lure blown out of the water by a trout. A few minutes and several casts later, I hooked and landed a 20 inch Speckled Trout.

The rest of the morning was slow. The wind picked up to 20-25mph and made casting to the southwest almost impossible. I started working my way back to shore where the waves weren’t quite as choppy and as soon as I had begun casting into the shallows, I got another strike. This one was from a fish much larger than my first trout. The strike sent water splashing at least ten feet from where the lure was, but the fish missed and I continued to work the lure towards me. Another strike, this time the fish came out of the water. It was a BIG gator trout, easily went over 24 inches. As my luck would have it, he missed it on the second strike. A third strike, this time the lure was sent flying into the air as the fish missed yet again. A fourth strike…the fish still missed. The lure was now chugging its way closer to me and as it got within 10 feet from me, a fifth and final strike hit and missed the lure again. I could have screamed. Unfortunately, topwater fishing is like that most of the time. Huge strikes and low hook up percentages. The increased wave action definitely played a role this morning on my hook up rates as well. Even though I missed the fish, it was exciting to see it and I managed to end the morning with one last, 17 inch trout.

I figured it was about time to call it quits when I was getting hit with white-caps in the chest. It also looked like some storms moving in. Walking back to the Jeep, I managed to find two weighted fishing corks, a hookless topwater lure in perfect condition, and a Pensacola Beach beery coozy with pictures of snapper all over it. It too was in good condition. All of these things had just washed up on the shore.

The kayak fishing tournament is Saturday. I still haven’t registered because I’m worried about the weather. I also need to check the tides. I’m afraid it may be on a neap tide and if it is, I won’t even bother launching the yak. If the weather clears up in the next few days, I’ll probably start kayak fishing some. I’d really like to land a king in the boat with me.

© 2017 The Flying Kayak

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Skip to toolbar